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Pupil’s Simple Pythagorean Device Leads to Science Prize

Two pieces of wood, fishing gut and a passion for science was all it took for a Paterson High pupil to claim four awards at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair.

Grade 10 pupil Mandilakhe Gqolana, of KwaDwesi, took little over a month to fine-tune his award-winning project “The Theory of Pythagoras in Music”.

The project relates to the energy produced through strumming strings and the pitch associated with their length and tension across varying lengths of gut tied to two pieces of plank joined at an angle.

He used a guitar tuner to pick up the various notes produced.

The first-time entrant stunned judges with his innovative thinking, claiming the gold medal in the maths and statistics category, a special award as a winning first-time entrant, the ISF Award for the best development project, and the provincial coordinators award for good scientific method.

Mandilakhe said he was looking forward to travelling to Johannesburg in October to compete in the finals against hundreds of aspiring scientists from across the continent.

“It was an incredible feeling entering against all these schools and beating them.

“The difference is I have a passion for science because it applies to everything in our world and that fascinates me,” he said.

“Through the guidance of my teachers at Paterson, who helped me through the process, we were able to produce an award-winning project.

“Once we have developed this project a little more I believe it is good enough to win the finals.”

His mathematics teacher, Michael Simon, said: “I came up with the idea of applying Pythagoras to music about 20 years ago but I had never found the time to develop it.

“When I explained the concept to him [Mandilakhe] he caught it instantly and he ran with it.

“He is truly a dedicated pupil and an inspiration to his peers who have all of a sudden discovered an interest in science.

“I do believe he has a bright future in the sciences.”

Paterson High School maths and science department head Kenneth Prins said Mandilakhe would now work with two Nelson Mandela University lecturers to perfect the concept.

“[Tomorrow] he will start working with the lecturers to develop the concept by adding new materials for the strings and different lengths and seeing how these affect the results.

“The award is something which we as teachers knew he was capable of achieving.

“[But being] from a disadvantaged background, [he was doubtful].

“Coming out on top certainly reassures him of his potential and what he could achieve.”

Story from Herald Live.

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